Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said there were no issues facing defensive backs Shattle Fenteng and Malkom Parrish that kept them out of the season opener against Clemson other than they weren’t ready to play.
Fenteng, a junior college All-American, and Parrish, a highly-touted 4-star freshman signee, both were expected to compete for playing time in their first season with the Bulldogs.
“They weren’t ready to play,” said Pruitt, speaking to reporters for the first time in two weeks following Tuesday’s practice. “If they were ready I would have played them. … Those guys are working hard.”
Pruitt pointed out that Fenteng, who was unable to enroll in school until mid-July, “didn’t practice but six or seven times” due to a shoulder injury suffered early in camp.
“I didn’t want to put him out there when he was not ready to play,” he said.
Same for Parris. “True freshmen are not supposed to play really.”
That said, Pruitt started true freshman Dominick Sanders at the Star position and he played a lot, finishing with three tackles. But he said Sanders is an exception to the rule, proving “the first day we put pads on” he deserved to play.
“He’s kind of wired 220,” Pruitt said, referring to the electrical outlet voltage. “You don’t have to get him going. He’s going when he hits the field. Is he always right? No. Should he be playing as a true freshman? Probably not. But right now he’s one of our better players. We’ ve just got to keep coaching him up?”
The Bulldogs passed their first defensive test of the season with flying colors. After giving up 276 yards and 14 first downs in the first half, they rebounded to hold Clemson to 15 total yards and one first down in the second. Georgia’s much-maligned secondary ended up with five pass break-ups and an interception.
As one might expect, Pruitt was ready to hand out trophies.
“Usually you don’t play as good as you think you do and you don’t play as bad as you think you do, and that’s probably the way it was in the first half,” he said. “We didn’t play as bad as it looked; we didn’t make some plays and Clemson did. The second half we probably didn’t play as good as it looked. Sometimes that’s just the way the ball bounces. But I did think we played with good effort the whole game.”
True freshmen are not supposed to play really. Shattle didn’t get here to the middle of July and he hurt his shoulder in the middle of camp. In the first 28 days of camp he didn’t practice but six or seven times because of his injury. So I didn’t want to put him out there when he was not ready.
“Our players know we need to get better and get better in a hurry. Our guys understand that. Watching the film they saw the mistakes we made in the game, which was a lot of them. Some of them were technical, some were mental. You can’t win games just playing tough and playing with effort. You’ve got to be able to think and you’ve got to be able to handle it. There were a lot of lessons to be learned Saturday.”